I’ve been hesitant to write about this, for two reasons. One: I will never do justice to Rod. My stories wouldn’t be enough. My portrayal would only scratch the surface of this amazing man. My gratitude could not be properly expressed. And two: My attempt to write about the journey of a half marathon may seem silly to all you “actual runners” out there. You half-marathoning, triathlon friends of mine who can take off running without even breaking a sweat. But, I know my reason for running is bigger than my inability to run.
January 6th I got a phone call from Julie during the middle of the day. She sometimes calls during the work week when we haven’t had time to catch up, so I didn’t think much of it. Until she started baiting me. You know that feeling, when a friend starts giving details about something, a trip, a night out, anything…you know eventually they will ask if you want to join. I could feel it coming, and I started panicking. She mentioned that she had wanted to run a race in her dad’s memory/honor. (I’m thinking in my head the Peachtree Road Race. Maybe a spring 5k around town.) Not only was she thinking a race, but a stinkin’ half-marathon. The Publix Half-Marathon. I was anxious thinking about even running a 10k. The thought of running a half-marathon just made me laugh. 13.1 miles! 13.1 MILES! But she followed up with how she called her sister, Kelly, and Kelly and Frank were gonna run it, too. Now, if you know Kelly, you would have immediately imagine a beautiful, tall and leggy blonde running with a drink in her hand. If Kelly was willing to do this race, then I should at least consider. I at least needed to be there to see how she managed to run with the cocktail. And so, after listening to Julie and hearing the excitement in her voice, I knew I was hooked. The thing is, if Julie had asked me just to run for the fun of it, I would have been able to politely say “No”. I can say “No” to Julie. It’s not easy to say “No” to her, but it can be done. Rod, well, there’s just no way to say “No” to that man. He was Julie’s best friend. Her hero. He’s still the person she turns to when she needs answers. He embraced her friends as his own, and we all lost a father when he passed away. He is the reason I’m running.
So I signed up. I bought some new kicks. I bought some new running clothes. Julie and I set a date for Saturday January 15th to meet for a partner run. I was ready. And then it snowed in Atlanta. By the 15th, there was still snow on the ground. It was not exactly how I imagined our first run, traipsing through slush and ice. It was one of the many times since signing up for this race that I thought we were crazy. But as we were running, I became acutely aware of my relationship with Julie. (She and I have been friends since our college days at Georgia Southern U-Ni-Ver-Sity; See picture from the night before our college graduation). We’ve been through some amazing celebrations together, and only recently have had to be there for each other during sorrow. But I see how much she’s changed this past year. Her determination to turn this tragic event into a positive impact on her life, and others, is beautiful. Her quest for a growing relationship with God has brought me to tears. And her passion for continuing her father’s legacy is endearing. I am so proud of her. And I get to see these changes in our training. As we’re matching each other step for step, or as she’s pushing me to run a little bit further. Her father is alive in her spirit, and he is the reason I am running.
We talked about how our training process coincides with this time last year when he found out he was sick. The race is on March 20th, and he passed away on March 29th. These days will be emotional, and there will be many a tear shed as we run, walk or crawl across the finish line. Tears of pure joy that our bodies worked for 13.1 miles and also tears because of the reason we are running. As we cross the finish line we will be surrounded by friends, and family all who are supporting us, and celebrating the life of Rod Jacobs.
Believe me, I do not want to run this half. It was never on my “to-do” list of life. But, like I said, I can’t say “No” to Rod. So come mile 9, when I want to give up (or run to my house because it’s a block over from where the mile 9 marker is) I will think of Rod. I will laugh at him. Laugh that he got me to do this, even if it was coming out of the mouth of his daughter, I know he was behind it. Rod is the only reason I would even consider a half. Looks like the jokes on you, Rod. We’re doing this. We are running for you.
If you find yourself up early on Sunday, March 20th, I know a handful of runners who would appreciate a friendly face and some encouragement…
Team Running For Rod.